I have been wanting to create a sensory room for years. There were a few things that held me back. I had looked into the cost of some of the sensory equipment used in other sensory spaces and knew I couldn’t afford that. I was also worried about where to put it. The kids got older. I still saw the need for a sensory room. I knew that if I didn’t create one now, they would soon be grown. That prompted my decision to use a storage closet as the space. I began planning how I could make things myself instead of purchasing expensive equipment.
One day while at my daughter’s therapy appointment, we visited the sensory room there and I watched her mood transform. I knew we absolutely needed one at home. I had run out of excuses and knew it was time to just do it.
(photos courtesy of Shelley of STEAM Powered Family)
What are the benefits of a sensory room?
- help a child feel safe
- engage the senses and provide sensory input (sensory diet)
- improve balance and coordination
- work on fine and gross motor skills
- support therapeutic treatment
- better manage challenging behaviours
- encourage exploration
- increase sensory experiences and tolerance
- build confidence
- increased vocabulary and communication opportunities
- improved caregiver relationship
- reset mood
- reduce stress
If you are worried that you don’t have enough room to make a sensory space, I’m going to tell you that it’s possible no matter how small your classroom or home is.
If you have no space at all to devote to a sensory area:
- make a sensory board and store it under a couch, under a bed, or behind furniture to pull out when needed.
- create a sensory box that is filled with fidgets and calm down tools.
If you have limited space to devote to a sensory area:
- make a sensory corner in your classroom, playroom, child’s room, basement, or living room.
- use a closet or storage room as the sensory room.
- convert a shed or an area of the garage.
If your concern is more the cost, I have some awesome money saving tips for you.
I know that sensory rooms can cost thousands if the equipment is all purchased. For organizations who have those funds, that is a wonderful option. For the rest of us, there are ways to create a sensory room on a budget.
See a video tour of our sensory space:
What to include in your sensory room:
I took a look at the space that I had and took into consideration my kids’ needs and their individual sensory preferences and planned the room accordingly.
I knew that I wanted to include a sensory wall. It would be a place for them to explore different textures and colours and shapes. I had looked online and seen that sensory walls easily cost hundreds of dollars. Using a cork board and a bit of imagination, I was able to create ours for under $25 plus the cost of the cork board.
Read the full instructions on how to make your own sensory wall and get a list of other texture ideas that you can use.
Calm Down Corner
The room at my daughter’s therapy includes a fibre optic curtain corner area that she loves. The problem was that when I looked up the cost, it was nearly a thousand dollars. Yikes! But I had a vision for a calm down corner that included fibre optic lights that changed colour with a remote so that each child could choose the colour they found most soothing.
The solution? We bought these fibre optic lights and then one of my sons drilled holes in a board. He attached that board to another board and then we strung the light strands through the holes and set the board on top of a shelf so that it hangs down over the corner of the room.
I placed a bean bag chair under the fibre optic light curtain and a mermaid pillow on top of the bean bag chair. I also have a few “brain friendly” books sitting there in case one of the kids wants to read while they are in the calm down corner. There is a long mirror across from that corner. This is for two reasons. The first is that the room used to be a storage closet so it’s very small and the mirror helps it feel bigger. The second is that kids can use the mirror to monitor their breathing and facial expressions which can help them to self-regulate.
I’m so in love with the box I found to hold fidgets for the room. It has all kinds of encouraging phrases on it including “Just Breathe”, “Help Others”, and “Enjoy the Journey”. It’s so perfect for this.
The box contains all kinds of fidgets including pencil toppers, Chewelry, glow in the dark sticks, stress balls, slime, putty, and lots and lots of fidgets.
Pea Pod FidgetsCuberSpeed Rainbow Ball MagicPencil Topper FidgetsMeshballsMulti Fidget PackTANGLE Original Fidget ToyMarble Fidget ToysKoosh BallsMunchables Owl Chew NecklaceMunchables Unicorn PendantChew Sensory Teether NecklaceSquishy Stress Relief Fidget
Shelf of Sensory and Calm Down Tools
I used a shelf that was already in the room and set items on top for the kids to use as needed. This includes a sound machine, the remote control for the fibre optic curtain light, a lava lamp, fibre optic lamp, plasma nebula ball, light up wand with sensory ends, liquid motion timer, and felt board.
On the felt board, I put the words “In Through Your Nose Out Through Your Mouth” as a reminder for my kids to do their calm down breathing.
Other Items in the Sensory Space:
Purple fuzzy throw rug – I bought it at WalMart.
Teal fuzzy large box with lid – This can double as a chair and it can hold books. I also put a few books on top that are designed to boost how kids see themselves.
Sensory Steppers – Kids can use these to touch, walk or stand on, or to sit on. They provide great sensory feedback.
Sensory Bin – I swap this out depending on what our current sensory bin is. You can see all our sensory bin examples here. You could also include sensory bottles or sensory bags.
Fiber Optic Curtain LightLavender Polka Dot Bean Bag ChairSensory StepperzLava LampPlasma BallFiber Optic LightLiquid Motion Bubble TimerPink Felt Letter BoardConair Sound Therapy MachineMermaid Sequin PillowLight Up Wand
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You might also like:
How to Create a Calm Down Kit for Your Child